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and prejudiced his mind, that probably nothing short of such a manifestation, would convince his mind, disclose to him his error, and discover to him his duty. And even in this case, our Lord sent him to Damascus for further instruction, « and he was three days without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” And all this was necessary to arrest him in his course, and for his infora mation, and to prepare him for a chosen vessel.
It is profitable to remark here also, that extraordinary manifestations and revelations, are, and always were necessary, when no other means are provided, or can be obtained. This comment may, however, be objected to, in relation to this trial of Paul, on the principle, that Paul had all the necessary means of grace, and information, that the nature of the case could possibly require. Our, Lord is, however, far the best jndge in this case; none but him can tell the force of education, the stubbornness of prejudice,and the strength of bigotry, assisted by slanders and falsehoods. These comments are not intended to draw in question, how far this apostle could be innocent or excuseable, in these prejudices; but there is one thing we may rely upon, that our Lord who knows all hearts and circumstances, saw fit to arrest this suddenly constituted apostle in the manner he did, for his own glory, and for the good of the church. :: Our digression to this point, is to reason and see, if it is rationally possible to reclaim a heated, raging and proud bigot like Saul of Tarsus; not merely the man who trusts in the tradition of his fathers, who contends for modes and forms, but a bigot of the 6 strictest. sect," that is above all
teaching, except that teaching which is immediately from heaven.
A very little consideration of the circumstances in which Paul stood, and the temper and disposition he was in, brings us to the safe conclusion, that nothing short of such a display of the Glory of Christ, as our Lord pleased to manifest, could destroy every root of Jewish bigotry in him, with all his prepossessions, enraged prejudices, and vindictive superstition; and transform him to an amiable and gentle christian apostle. And probably, nothing short, of that humbling sentence from our Lord, to Paul, “ arise and go into the city, (Damascus) and it shall be told thee what thou must do," and receive instruction from Ananias; could destroy from a mind constituted as his was, the strong tendencies and inclinations to christian bigotry; for a man may be as great a bigot in the christian as in the Jewish religion.
This displanting from his mind all inclination to bigotry, was an essential qualification for the. apostolic part assigned him to act, the propagation of the gospel, and healing of schisms in the primitive churches. We find him most ably and eloquently admonishing, and exhorting to charity, and complaining of the errors and contentions of his Corinthian brethren, for their saying “I am of Paul, and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas, and I of Christ. Is Christ divided ?"
The apostle, in christian love and mildness, withheld from them, and has not told us, which he esteemed most bigotted in their manner, way or form of doctrine. And this is illustrative and edifying in the present day of schisms; for now every one saith, I am of Martin Luther, and I of John Calyin, and I of James Arminius, and I of
George Fox, and I of John Wesley; and we have no doubt, each of these churches will be willing to own, with shame and sorrow, that they fcan each produce their bigots. But if we are not greatly beguiled and blinded, we have found the greatest bigots, to be of those, who profess to stand alone, and will be taught by none, but Christ. And whatever they do, cry aloud they are taught of God, the bible their only book, and that they follow Christ in all things. This stamp of characters, are generally as ready now, as in apostolic days, to take the judgment seat, and cry out bigotry, superstition, and formality; and probably will accuse of ignorance and darkness, and Popery, and running after the traditions and teachings of men. We find bigots in all periods “ wiser in their own conceit, than seven men who can render a reason.” In experimental knowledge in things of God and godliness, the bigot and schismatic's rule, to try the experience of God's children, and his dispensations of providence and grace, is, not to admit of an experience going beyond theirs, and to reject every experience that does not come up to their views.
Under these views of evils and errors to be a. voided, then and now, the manner of the conversion of Paul, and the wisdom, mercy and goodness of our Lord's manifestations to him, is not only a living rebuke of an uncharitable, and antichristian temper and disposition, but by the revelation of his glorious presence, he at once destroycd his Jewish superstition and bigotry; and by his humbling command to an arrogant scholar of Gamaliel, to go to a despised christian, and probably a layman, for instruction in the knowledge of his duty to God and man, he disposed him to that humility and meekness, which exemplifies the christian doctrine and character. And this command was probably as humiliating a sentence to Paul, as the searcher of all hearts could pronounce, and its effects show a triumph over the opposition of human wisdom, and disposed the Apostle “ to preach the gospel, but not with the (artificial) wisdom of speech, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.”
In returning to the general point in question, we cannot hesitate to ascribe much wisdom in our Lord's manifestations to John in the Isle of Patmos. John had experienced a long acquaintance with our Lord in the days of his flesh, he was the disciple Jesus loved, and was well acquainted with his lowliness, meekness and patience. John of course needed no instructions on these points. But in this manisesto of the heir of all things, or compendium of things to come, it was proper Christ should appear in the glories of his character, and it was needful to the apostle that he should be instructed, from the manifestations of the dignity and glory of the Redeemer's nature and God-head. This was also necessary to give sanction and weight to this important book of revelation of things which must come to pass, which he commanded the apostle to write and send to the seven churches of Asia; containing many things which ought to be transmitted to all the churches ; and which are, and will be, applicable to all the churches in the whole world, until he shall come in the clouds of heaven. It is a deep, and comprehensive prophecy reaching from that period to the general judgment, and the commencement of the new heavens and the new earth, and perhaps some parts of it will not be accomplished but in eternity. Therefore to give the most profound sanction to such sublime, weighty, and all important truths as are contained in this revelation, we may suppress all wonder, that our Lord should make his appearance in some sense in the glory of the God-head.